I spent much of my day outdoors in nearly subzero temperatures (running, shoveling snow, traveling to various meetings mostly on foot and public transit) and even though I have been home for well over an hour I am still thawing out. My muscles are cold and my brain is creaky and tired.
In addition to the cold, there was a lot of socializing and logistics involved in my day, as well as a phone call with my health insurance, always an exhausting pastime.
This is all to say that hunkering in bed with some hot chocolate and a book sounds much more enticing than writing, so I am going to keep this short (I hope).
I’ve been thinking a lot about timing of life events, and about how to know when something is the correct fit for me given my emotional state and current aspirations. Six years ago, on the heels of a divorce, I decided to move cross-country from Boston back to my hometown of Los Angeles. There, I planned to apply to Ph.d programs and begin what felt like an inevitable life of research and academia.
If I had truly listened to the tiny voice of truth shouting in the back of my head, I never would have attempted graduate school applications. I liked my subject (a version of architectural theory) and I enjoyed losing myself in research, but I was not a very thorough or organized researcher, I was too exhausted emotionally to be disciplined in my studies, and the thought of limiting my career path to teaching was stultifying. Still, I didn’t know what else to do -writing, which I loved, seemed too hard and too unlikely to yield any income, I had lost my professional job in an architecture firm due to a combination of a failing economy and the aforementioned marriage, and my current position of waitressing was too dismal to consider keeping for any length of time. Grad school, I told myself, was the only option and the most likely one for someone bookish and educated like me.
My parents supported me, as did my friends and former professors. The only detractor was a professor I met at one I of the universities to which I was applying who warned me away from academic life, likening it to a prison sentence. He told me that professors have no prestige any longer, and that my best career hope after graduating with my degree was an adjunct professor position at a no-name college in the middle of nowhere. I came home from that meeting, shaken but even more determined to succeed.
After months of toiling over my essays and application materials, however, I was not accepted anywhere. At the time, I was devastated. Now, I am grateful.
I doubt I would have survived the five or six intense years of study. I was depressed at the time of application and preferred running myself into the ground with excessive exercise, minimal food and even less sleep to applying myself to anything productive. I don’t think a rigorous academic curriculum would have calmed my habits.
Now, though, I am again in the midst of a grad school application, this time for a Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. When I think of this possibility, I don’t become frantic as I did those many years ago, but I feel a warmth in my heart and in my throat. I feel excitement. I do not grow serious, but elated. I know, from the core of my being, this is the right path for me, at this moment.
I am applying not out of a sense of duty, desperation, or depression, but out of hope and happy expectation. I feel a sense of purpose connected to the process. If I succeed, I will have the chance to help people who need the sort of support I have found in the years since my rejection from graduate school and my move away from Los Angeles.
I have been to those dark places, and I know how lonely it feels.
This is starting to sound like my personal statement; that is not my intention. What I want, is to say that timing is everything. You can’t force a decision if it is not time. Grad school has always been on my path, but I misjudged its place in an attempt to force a new meaning onto my life. I wanted to cover my difficult emotional state with productivity and purpose, because that was easier than doing the hard work of dealing with my feelings.
Since my rejection, I have found stability in my life. I have done the hard work. I have spent hour upon hours facing my feelings. I have done a lot of crying and writing and laughing. And I feel sure of my purpose and sure of my decision to pursue a graduate education. The timing is now.